What to do After College?

You have submitted your thesis, written your final exams, and booked your post-graduation vacation.  More than likely, somewhere percolating in your mind is that nagging question, and then what? 

Procrastination is all too human. While in school, concrete thoughts of what we plan to do upon graduation are postponed.  We might have grand visions of 6 figure salaries, and becoming captains of the industry overnight.  Or it could be, going to work in the family business – or heading off afar to seek our fame and fortune.

How do you Continue After College?

Some universities and colleges, like Henley, have career counseling and actively seek to steer their students toward goals.  Being a business school helps as such institutions are generally seen to be feeding graduates into employment opportunities.  And, more than most, will be teaching not just professional topics, but soft skills that will help when planning one’s career and acing job interviews especially if you’ve collected on your student loan.

startup thinkingBut that is not the norm. For many institutions, career guidance tends to be underfunded; an afterthought to the more glamorous features of the different degree programs offered, events organized, and grants received.  When there are few counselors for so many students, it is up to those students to seek out assistance.  And, if one is focused elsewhere (like on the paper due next week), the world post-graduation takes a seat, far at the back of the bus.

Thus, many college graduates find themselves unprepared.  Ironically, though tertiary education gives them the skills to solve problems on their own, it overlooks the urgency of having some core skills already in hand to land that first job.  Students are usually taught to write essays and present, but less likely how to interview and present themselves.  

Sitting in a class dreaming of where you might be one day does not necessarily probe what drives you to feel you are growing, thriving, and feeling appreciated and valued.  To do such requires introspection and research.  And the truth is, even people with experience, do not know what they truly desire or how to go about finding work that fits them well.

The outcome can be accepting whatever is offered and is in roughly the area for which you trained.  While you can start to pay your bills, it is more than likely, that within a few years, you will join the millions who are unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and asking whether they are wasting their time.

Avoiding Those Dead-Ends

If it is not already apparent, you need to know yourself after finishing college.  What is it that gives you joy, and motivates you to jump out of bed every day?  More than likely several things motivate you. Catch yourself musing about something.  Was it what people said? 

How do they interact with one another or react? 

The way something worked?

Some work of art, a song? 

Sorting something out? 

Your inner voice is bubbling with thoughts, and you only need to step out of yourself for a moment to catalog the themes that are about you.  These might not be end goals.  And they could be areas that later, turn out to not fit you perfectly.  But they will tell you what avenues you would like to be pursuing.

With this, you are ready for the next steps: consulting with people who do know about careers that apply, researching organizations that offer related work, and determining the skills and/or experience you lack.  

More than likely, your target will not be immediately reachable.  But, you should be able to see multiple paths that will take you there.  And ask yourself, where do you want to see yourself in 15 years?

And one more thing.  Accept that you too will be changed by your experiences.  What might have started out as your dream objective, might be replaced by new ideas you have come across or changes in the world. Consider, how since the year 2000, the internet alone has changed how we live, buy, meet, and learn; how the Mall replaced Main Street and was subsequently replaced by the era of Amazon and eBay.  

External Perspective

Actively soliciting help from others (as opposed to being nagged by well-meaning relations) has value.  While a Career Guidance Counselor should be able to identify opportunities and might be the contact point for recruiters, coaches take the time to get to know you and help you dig deeper into yourself.

See if there is an organization like the one mentioned here, the GiveHelp Foundation, that can help you find what is right for you.

Interviewing Skills

interview for job

Being able to present yourself to warrant a company to invest in you requires more than being well-dressed, groomed, and affable.  A subject in its own right, suffice it to say that walking into an interview cold has a low probability of landing you a job.

Just as with anything else that matters, you need to be prepared:

  • Know the company you are interviewing with
  • Identify what you want to know about the company, its culture, the prospects they offer
  • Catalog what you can offer
  • Demonstrate that you are engaged, and motivated; that you can listen and explain; are worthy of their investment; would fit into their team.

Interviewers have criteria they are looking to fill.  Identify what it is they need to hear and be sure to show them you have that experience or skill. 

Lastly, you might be asked about your expectations.  You should have an idea of what the market is likely to pay; and also, what you need to survive and grow.  Asking for something unrealistic is an unlikely successful strategy; as is replying I dunno.  Show that you have done the research.

You can find more interview tips here.


self publish thesis

So what is the research you need to do?  Data is easy to come by nowadays.  Starting with LinkedIn and company websites, you can learn what the company is about, the clientele, and more.  Social media as well as the news can offer insights into the company’s mission, and the skills they require.

Put together your Strategic Ideas to learn more about the company before the interview.  By being able to draw on facts as part of the conversation, you demonstrate your motivation.

Research should also help you, in advance, to determine whether this job is the first step on a path that will ultimately fulfill, reward, and help grow you.

Believe it or not, you can also make money from your research. Find out how!

The Upshot

The only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes, and making mistakes.  You are bound to misstep.  But if you invest a little bit upfront, you should not be so far off to require a massive shift to find a better track.  Examine what that inner voice is marveling at next time: a moment today could save you years of regret one day in the future.

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